Emotional Gladiators or Overpaid Crybabies?

Jose Vilson

“There’s no crying in baseball!”

The seminal catchphrase we as sports fans of any level in reference to pro athletes we see everyday on TV. We expect these figures to play with heart and emotion, yet when we see them on screen, we also want them to deflect any signs of weakness. We also get angry at players that whine and moan through the course of the season because we understand that some of their contracts can buy out entire nation’s GDPs. Some of their grips, comparing their situations to slavery or harassment often leave us bewildered.

Even still, I thoroughly believe crying in sports is more than justified; it’s a rite of passage into true hero status. I remember the first time I watched an athlete cry, and it was probably Jackie Joyner-Kersee crying as she tried to cross the finish line at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. That image planted the seed for my perception of athletes as emotional gladiators, leaving it all on the field.

It also meant that my images of Andre Agassi, Kobe Bryant, and Adam Morrison were held to a JJK-standard of crying. Frankly, none of their crying could hold a light to that moment, though all of their crying is somewhat believable. Someone like Terrell Owens or Barry Bonds, though, has as much business crying as Rod “Show Me the Money” Tidwell.

What did the argument in for me, though, was when I watch young basketball or baseball players play their sport. Some of these kids practice day and night, foregoing whatever they’re supposed to do, like homework and showers, to practice their sport. They have this big dream, and idolize a sports hero. They continue on into higher stages of the game, and are chosen based on their work ethic, G_d-given abilities, and/or their heart, and the higher they get in their field, the more the sport becomes a part of their actual person.

The athletes that we watch on TV, then, have succumbed their lives with football. It’s no longer a livelihood the way most people can just apply and become a certain thing. These people have worked damn near forever to get to where they are at such a young age. So when I see crying in any sport, I’m thinking, “How much did this moment mean to that athlete?” and “How many beatings did this person take to get to where they are?”

Sometimes, it makes me think my job as a teacher can’t be that bad. Then I realize that if I multiply my salary by 100, I’d have the average pro athlete’s income per year. No sympathy here, herbs. Can’t blame me, though …

jose, who should have a new poem ready for y’all soon.